KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Standing between Olympic silver medalist Nicole Hosp and an embrace with her father was a plastic fence about waist high.
No trouble. The Austrian skier simply vaulted over it — in ski boots, no less. Nothing was getting in the way of a hug from dad.
Almost immediately, the tears began to flow as the two celebrated Hosp’s second-place performance in the women’s Olympic super-combined Monday. Hosp finished the downhill and slalom runs in a combined time of 2 minutes, 35.02 seconds — 0.40 seconds behind Maria Hoefl-Riesch as the German standout successfully defended her title. American Julia Mancuso was third.
“This is really special,” Hosp said.
Especially considering that Hosp had to watch the 2010 Vancouver Olympics from home after tearing ligaments her right knee following a fall months earlier in a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria.
“That was a really, really hard time for me,” said Hosp, who won a silver medal in the slalom at the 2006 Turin Olympics. “It was much, much better here.”
This was another stellar day on the mountain for the Austrians. Matthias Mayer roared down the tricky course to win the men’s downhill Sunday.
To think, the super-combined isn’t really even Hosp’s strongest event, either.
“She’s been looking good all week in training and she should be good in all of the other events, too,” Austrian Alpine director Hans Pum.
Hosp momentarily grabbed the lead after the slalom run, celebrating her performance by pumping both ski poles after crossing the line. However, the lead was brief as three racers later Hoefl-Riesch flew down the steep course.
Bumped off the top spot, Hosp had to wait several agonizing minutes to see if her run would even be good enough for a medal. Teammate Anna Fenninger then struggled, Lara Gut of Switzerland made a major mistake and skied off the course, Tina Maze of Slovenia faltered and Mancuso, who’s hardly a slalom specialist, couldn’t surpass Hoefl-Riesch or Hosp.
“Hard time waiting,” said the 30-year-old Hosp, who painted her nails in red and white — Austrian colors — for the occasion. “It was really tough because the track was really hard to ski. But I’m so happy about it.”
It wasn’t long ago that Hosp was set to become the next big thing in skiing. She won the 2007 overall World Cup title — and then along came the reign of Lindsey Vonn, who missed the Sochi Olympics because of knee surgery.
Hoefl-Riesch knows all about that.
Asked if she could envision a day like this four years ago when she was watching the Vancouver Games, Hosp said: “You don’t know if you’re still (going to be) racing or not. I’m here and it worked and I have a medal. It’s great.”
Soon after working her way through television interviews, Hosp spotted her family and friends near the stands. Hugs all around — for her boyfriend, who doubles as her ski technician, her dad and, really, everyone else in her path. She was hoisted in the air and her group snapped picture after picture.
“They know how much hard work is behind this success,” Hosp said.